1977 Vermont Castings Vigilant - How to use?

Monmouth00

New Member
Jan 13, 2020
7
New Jersey
Hello All,
I bought a house with a 1977 (or so is cast on the inside of the firebox) Vermont Castings Vigilant stove.

Can someone teach me how to use it?

I've been in the house maybe 8 years, and have probably only burned in the stove about 2 dozen times. It's obviously not our primary source of heat, but I burn on those days when it's just unbearably cold and windy outside.

The limited number of burns also has to do with how much work I have to put into it when I do have a fire. I'm constantly having to attend to the fire for one reason or another. I'd love to just throw logs in and let them burn, but I'm having to babysit the stove.

I have a small lever on the back that opens up the trap door - I guess what you would call the thermostat. It closes very quickly after I start the fire, and essentially snuffs out the burn. My normal operation is to prop it open, but sometimes I even have to open the front door to keep oxygen on the fire. I'm always having to turn and re-arrange logs because it only seems the left side of the fire box wants to burn wood.

When I do get the fire going hot - it's ungodly hot. My house is an 1800 sq.ft. split level with the stove downstairs. When the fire is going enough to be self-sustaining, the upstairs of my house is 85 degrees or warmer.

Also, when it's going hot, it eats wood. Like, I'm putting wood in it every 20 minutes.

Last, a buddy told me that I could shut the flue when the fire's going really hot, and it would help conserve wood and burn more efficiently. But, when I loaded the sucker up on a snow day and shut the flue, then went out to play with the kids in the snow, I came back in to a very smokey home. It smelled like a campfire in my house for a week.

Can someone tell me how to burn efficiently in this thing? Or at least have a fire that doesn't have to be burning at a temperature where my family is sweating bullets?

Thanks!
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
80,561
South Puget Sound, WA
You are very fortunate to have an original VC with low hours.

The small lever and trap door control the primary air thermostatically. Open the thermostat all the way (to the left) when starting the fire and be sure the bypass is open.

Once the fire is burning well, close the bypass, then set the air control lever to about the middle position. Do you have a thermometer on the stove top? If not, get one.

Do you have the manual? If not, it's located here in 3 parts. The manual covers all the early VC stoves.
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
4,940
Northern NH
I would hold off on running this stove until you have had the chimney and installation inspected by a competent person. VCs are great but old VCs have some issues. They need to be cleaned. One of the areas that need to be cleaned is hidden and not obvious but very important. If the stove is up to temperature and the bypass is lever is closed and the soteve starts to smoke that is good indication that something is not right.
 

Monmouth00

New Member
Jan 13, 2020
7
New Jersey
Even though I don’t run the stove much, I’ve had the chimney and stove cleaned and inspected probably 5 times in the last 8 years. I’m confident that all is in working order.
is the bypass the flue that leads to the chimney? I’ve always run the stove with that wide open because of the smoke issue I mentioned. I don’t want to smoke out my house again.
With regard to the small lever on the back, I always start the fire with it wide open. But it closes quickly once the fire gets going. Moving it to the middle wouldn’t do anything because the flap door is already closed.
As far as the thermometer, I have one. Where should it be positioned for correct temp measurement?
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
80,561
South Puget Sound, WA
The flue damper is not the same as the stove bypass control. It is the handle on the side of the stove that controls an inner bypass. This allows flue gases to go directly up the flue for starting, or direct them through the secondary combustion chamber in the stove. Please download and read the manual. It will answer many questions.
 
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Gearhead660

Member
Dec 20, 2018
138
WI
Second that you should download the manual. Also read the threads on this site. Lots of useful info. I was not savy of the operation of mine at first either.
The damper is has a temperature adjusting spring, that's why it will close after you get a fire going. As it gets warmer, open it a bit more until it's up to temp. Be gentile though as they can easily be broken.
The secondary combustion chamber needs to be cleaned after every heating season. Removing the flue from the stove makes it a lot easier.
 

Monmouth00

New Member
Jan 13, 2020
7
New Jersey
I’m assuming the secondary combustion chamber is the opening to the right side of the inside of the firebox?
Is there an easier way to clean it than removing the flue?
Wouldn’t they have cleaned that when they cleaned the chimney?
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
4,940
Northern NH
I have the big brother of your model so I cant give you detailed instructions. On mine the flue pipe had to come off, the secondary damper was removed and then cast plate has to be popped out to gain access. Then a vacuum cleaner has to be used with a long nozzle to clean out the area. These are getting to be "old timers" by now so I expect many people who clean chimneys are not even aware of this hidden chamber. By this time in a VCs life many of the stoves needs resealing the mortar joints and one of the benefits of taking a stove apart to reseal it is you get to learn how it works and all the hidden spots.
 
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Monmouth00

New Member
Jan 13, 2020
7
New Jersey
My God hat sounds like a lot of work, with huge potential in screwing up the reassembly. I'm not sure I trust myself to do it. At all.

Can I vacuum from the inside somehow? Like through the hole in the right side of the firebox?

There is slim to no chance that I remove the flue pipe. That just sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.
 

Gearhead660

Member
Dec 20, 2018
138
WI
My God hat sounds like a lot of work, with huge potential in screwing up the reassembly. I'm not sure I trust myself to do it. At all.

Can I vacuum from the inside somehow? Like through the hole in the right side of the firebox?

There is slim to no chance that I remove the flue pipe. That just sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.
I take it your flue is vertical.
Also don't forget to open the "keyhole" on the bottom of the left side when having a fire.
 
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Monmouth00

New Member
Jan 13, 2020
7
New Jersey
Nope, my flue is horizontal. There's still little to no chance that I remove the pipe, though. The mere thought scares the crap out of me. Dirty, sooty, rusty, probably wouldn't be able to get the screws out, definitely wouldn't be able to put it back together like it was.

Again, can I vacuum or clean without removing the flue?

Where should I position my thermometer, and what temps should I shoot for?
 

Gearhead660

Member
Dec 20, 2018
138
WI
You have a pic of your setup? You can try to vacuum some from the inside. I have duct taped a 3/4" hose to my vacuum to help get in there. Really need to remove flue to do a thorough clean.
 
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